Ask a silly question - why do PCs slow down?

QuagSwag

Novice Member
A frivolous thread perhaps, it is holiday seasion. My apologies, please move along if uninterested...

I've been building personal PCs on and off since the days of 286 processors and MS-DOS 3.2. Life's too short and busy to get deep into chipsets, clocking and the like these days, but I'd like to think I know my way around a PC. This has inevitably led to my building and maintaining the extended family...

So, this has been bugging me for a few years now, what exactly is it that forces the various family PCs I look after to run like a dog after a couple of years???

I keep an eye on msconfig and the registry. I zap malware, defrag and cleanup; hell I even vacuum inside occasionally in case it helps. I patiently remove all the exciting toolbars and software that gets installed by the mystery fairies; yet slowly and surely they all grind to a halt eventually.

Don't get me wrong, these are not units that have 'new' software installed constantly, elderly parents are very happy with their photoshop IV, Outlook Express and Word 97, change is fiercely resisted and they think storing more than 50 photos on the hard drive is excessive - and may cause all the bugs. Therefore I don't want suggestions to beef up the RAM, and I know the machine will be just fine if I reinstall XP from scratch.

I've discussed this with professionals over the years, clear answers other than 'buy more RAM' are scarce, so after all this time, someone enlighten me, what exactly is going on????

QuagSwag
 

Speedy624

Active Member
Maybe... just a thought... the applications used on a daily basis are being released with more and more new features meaning the programs grow in size requiring more resources. So initially the components are still running at their normal speed and still handle want they were designed to handle but seem slower to us because we load them with the lastest and greatest applications.

Oh lets not forget the bloatware the programs are bundled with and the AV and the spyware/malware junk people may install on their systems.

Just a thought, could be wrong.
 

mcnoiserdc

Novice Member
Well, it seems he is talking about computer using the same old software as in the beginning...
 

Badger0-0

Member
I know the machine will be just fine if I reinstall XP from scratch.

I think you've answered your own question.
It's the OS itself that gets cluttered.

Well at least that's what I've always thought.
God knows why it gets cluttered though :confused:
 

mcnoiserdc

Novice Member
I think you've answered your own question.
It's the OS itself that gets cluttered.

Well at least that's what I've always thought.
God knows why it gets cluttered though :confused:

well it is not that easy in all cases. I have a laptop that used to be fast, but now even with fresh installs it keeps slow... Only thing I can think of, is the ageing of the components.
 

Badger0-0

Member
well it is not that easy in all cases. I have a laptop that used to be fast, but now even with fresh installs it keeps slow... Only thing I can think of, is the ageing of the components.

It isn't the ageing of the components.

When you say fresh installs, do you mean the same OS?
Or did you upgrade?

A new install of the original OS should run as fast as the day you bought it, in my experience.
 

mcnoiserdc

Novice Member
Yes same OS. I used to do fresh install once every 6 months, but now, fresh installs are not doing anything visible.
In my newer PC's fresh installs do make things faster.
 

QuagSwag

Novice Member
Nice to see some debate generated.

Speedy, I agree that some form of bloatware in software updates may be the case, though it seems that OS ones are more common in the scenarios I am talking about - family simply do not want the 'latest' thing. Of course I leave all the updates on 'auto' for family PCs, saves me time and explanation. Perhaps all those 'MS framework' updates or similar are causing the bloat.

Badger, yup it sounds reasonable, but like you I have no idea why this should be the case with the OS.

mcnoiserdc, perhaps there is some sort of ageing, but seems so unlikely, I would expect simple failure. Any engineers out there know any different? If I was to take an educated guess at a single component that could 'age' I would plump for the Hard Drive, at least it has some moving parts to consider...
 

spyder viewer

Well-known Member
Could it be that some updates are processed as patches ie done as an addition rather than being "slipstreamed" ie done instead of.

I've been thinking of doing a fresh install to speed up my HTPC but I wonder if re-installing my W7HP and then piling on top all the updates will just bring me back to where I am now? Is it possible to download a copy of W7HP with the updates already slipstreamed?
 

Faqade

Standard Member
Another reason for PC slow down is the hard drive not being defragmented reagularly. After a while of installing and uninstalling programs, deleting files, etc, there ends up being 'gaps' on the hard drive where this data used to be so you can be left with scattered data and this in turn this means slower read times on the hard drive. This can be one of the reasons for PC slow down. If I fix someones PC for them I usually put a copy of CCleaner on there and tell them to use it regularly. I find that keeping a PC defragmented and free of clutter (cache, history, unused files, temp files) prolongs it's 'life'.

Like it has been said previously, 'bloatware' and background services (YES YOU NORTON!) can drain resources if there's enough of them as well.

PCs are kind of like women... ;)
 

QuagSwag

Novice Member
Agreed, but defrag is a standard defense I've been using for years. I Should note that I use free services for family such as AVG, ZoneAlarm etc. Wouldn't touch Norton / McAfee personally, though that may be bias from bad old days?
 

Faqade

Standard Member
I use AVG and I've been using Zonealarm for years. I wouldn't say it's biased really. Only a couple of months ago I removed Norton off my Sister's computer, that was a pain in itself. I had to aquire a removal tool from Norton themselves. I really don't think people need all this 'protection' these companies offer and I don't think the internet is all that evil if people use a little common sense.

It can come down to older components over time though, I reckon you can over come that sometimes with an older operating system or streamline one. My computer's fairly up-to-date I guess but I still use XP and will do until, well I don't know but a long time :D Another thing I do is to have seperate partitions, one for the OS/programs and one for data, a seperate drive for data would be better. This is probably standard practice for most people like but it is a good thing to do. nLite is good for streamlining XP and I think they do one for 7. This can remove loads of the clutter that the average Joe doesn't need and create a smaller, faster OS. It lets you add in all of the updates and service packs and drivers you want to save hassle.

Another thing I've just thought about is formatting. Formatting doesn't erase data completely off a drive and you can sometimes get data back off a formatted drive. Do you think that could be something to do with PC slow down even after reinstalling the OS like someone else mentioned?
 
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rorackowe

Well-known Member
I rarely install software other than updates and do not experience much slowdown. I also optimise running processes when I first setup windows (referring to black viper's website) so that I'm only running what I need. I last re installed Vista in 2007 and Windows 7 on my desktop when it was released.

I reinstall my HTPC much more often as I seem to tinker with it more.

I have a partition of 60-160GB for the OS and separate disks for data.
 

QuagSwag

Novice Member
Funny, I am the opposite with my HTPC. Despite partner grumbles I refuse to put any office software etc. on it, nothing more than needed for media playback and a couple of games. It boots quickly and has stayed solid - Vista install too!

Noted on the separate partitions, admit I did not do this on family builds, really didn't think it was worth it.

I should note the positive side of all this slowdown. Once every 5 years or so I get to convince everyone that a complete rebuild is required, and have some fun designing a new system :)
 

deepbeep

Active Member
Causes of slowing down:

- Operating system updates add bloat and inefficiencies
- Temp files and addons etc from internet browsing are stored (even if you think you are clearing everything, you aren't really) and take up space
- Antivirus/firewall software updates use more resources
- Registry grows and becomes clogged


On my old PC I have a dual boot system with one OS installation which is not connected to the net, and therefore no firewall, browser or software updates. I use it only for music production and it's as fast as it was 5 years ago.
 

SeanT

Distinguished Member
Any OS

Background processes hammering the CPU / disk (usually the latter) - use task manager / top
Swapping to disk due to lack of memory - use task manager / free / top

Windows (mostly)

Unnecessary startup programs - check "run" keys in registry and contents of startup folder in start menu
Malware / spyware - use task manager to identify processes that have no business being on your system
Large / corrupt user profile and registry hives - recreate the profile instead of reinstalling the os
 

QuagSwag

Novice Member
As stated at the start SeanT, most of your comments are done as standard and still things slow down. Interesting point about the profile though. Certainly worth a shot.

Deepbeep's comment is interesting, I'm starting to think OS updates are the real killer. I too have a music production setup that still flies

I'm dubious those background processes make as much difference as we think these days, even though I am still an msconfig fanatic. Gone are the times when we are managing with 64MB of RAM and lots of background processes. One of the galling things about these machines as they slow to a crawl, is a Task Manager happily informing you that you are only using 5% CPU and a third of available memory - so why are you running like a ****!!!
 

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
Another reason for PC slow down is the hard drive not being defragmented reagularly.

Most of the things being stated here seem to just be untested theories, guesses from working on a collaping system or well out of date knowledge that should have been thrown out with Windows 98. A bit of technical detail about how these things cause slowdown would go a long way to improving the theory.

Defragmenting for example, it may make a difference if you're using an ancient file system, but on an NTFS drive it's not going to make much difference in most cases. I've been running this vista NTFS system for the last three years with no defragmentation (even the automatic one off) and it's just as responsive as you'd expect any well-maintained three year old system.

And although I haven't tested it I'm not convinced about files/registry explanations. How are they slowing down the system? The registry may grow to a couple of dozen megabytes, but the hard disk is hardly going to be choking on a file that size, and most accesses are for specific entries, not searching it.

As for browser cache (temporary internet files), it's a feature solely designed to speed up your browsing, if it was actually slowing it down it should have been cut long ago.
 
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QuagSwag

Novice Member
Nice post EndlessWaves, though some solutions would have been helpful too. The lack of detail in my mind is why I posted this in the first place... Most of the solutions mentioned, are the same old story, and the same solutions I used for years, without great success in the long run. I also imagine someone will invite me to buy more RAM somewhere down the thread, which kind of misses the point.

Curious as to why you would bother turning defrag off, and why it makes no odds with NTFS? Got to agree though, that in practice it seems to have made no great difference for years now.

Those advocating separate partitions, I would say this still makes sense. However does it necessarily have any impact on machines slowing down over time?
 

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
Nice post EndlessWaves, though some solutions would have been helpful too.

I'd certainly share it if I knew the reason or had a convincing theory. I think windows updates may have some influence, last time I installed windows 2000 in 2006-2007 it certainly felt a bit slower after those years of updates were installed.

Curious as to why you would bother turning defrag off, and why it makes no odds with NTFS? Got to agree though, that in practice it seems to have made no great difference for years now.

I saw a couple of tests using synthetic data to test how much difference defrag made in benchmarks and decided to see for myself how much difference it made to daily use/benchmarks, this was back when Vista was much hated so I was expecting to wipe the drive after a year or two but as it's turned out to have such excellent stability I've never bothered to turn defrag back on.
 

QuagSwag

Novice Member
I saw a couple of tests using synthetic data to test how much difference defrag made in benchmarks and decided to see for myself how much difference it made to daily use/benchmarks, this was back when Vista was much hated so I was expecting to wipe the drive after a year or two but as it's turned out to have such excellent stability I've never bothered to turn defrag back on.

Fair enough; though it's hard to believe all those extra pointers/indexes make no difference at all. I can happily report excellent stability with Vista without turning off defrag, it just took a lot more work at the beginning than the other OS's. I have 3 home machines running nicely on it still.
 

balidey

Distinguished Member
I left Windows a few years back.
I now run entirely Ubuntu. My PC's are not new, they are all 2nd hand PC's given to me by previous owners who had to buy new ones as they just got slower and slower. But I have never experienced my Ubuntu PC's ever slowing, atleast not that I can notice.
I have also tried installing fresh windows on these older PC's and they never run as well as I think they should. So that points to me, its not just the OS, but its one particular OS.
 

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